The parents of 4-year-old Cleo Smith said Friday that their family was “whole again” and thanked everyone involved her rescue, shortly after the prime suspect in her alleged abduction was taken to a maximum security prison in Western Australia.
“We are humbled by the love and support that we have received from not only our local community but the whole of Western Australia and across the country,” Ellie Smith and Jake Gliddon said in a statement. “We are so thankful that our little girl is back within our arms and our family is whole again.”
Their statement was released by police, hours after Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, the prime suspect in their daughter’s alleged abduction, made brief appearance in court in the coastal town of Carnarvon. A magistrate refused to release him on bail and he will return to court next month.
Police said Thursday he had been charged with various offences including one count of forcibly taking a child under 16.
After his court appearance, officers escorted the prisoner from Carnarvon to the state capital Perth, the Department of Justice in Western Australia said in a statement.
“The prisoner will be held at a maximum security facility,” it added.
Cleo was taken from a campsite in Carnarvon on Oct. 16.
Her disappearance both horrified and rivetted Australia as extensive police search initially covered the area around the campsite, before extending nationwide and Cleo’s parents made desperate pleas for her safe return.
Investigators eventually found Cleo on Wednesday in a locked house in Carnarvon, a short drive from the Smith family home.
Officers, forced entry to the house and found Cleo alone in a room, physically unharmed. Police released an audio recording of the emotional moment they found the child on Thursday.
“We’ve got her, we’ve got her,” one officer can be heard saying, before asking her name.
“My name is Cleo,” she replied, after briefly hesitating.
Kelly is alleged to have acted alone and has no relation to Cleo’s family, police said. He was taken to hospital while in custody to treat self-inflicted injuries Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde, who is heading the police investigation told reporters on Thursday.
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He added that specialist child interviewers had traveled from Perth to Carnarvon to interview Cleo about the case.
“The main concern around that is Cleo’s welfare,” Wilde said. “We have experienced people that will undertake that and it’ll take as long as it takes. We’ll sit down with the family and work out the appropriate time.”
Western Australia’s state Premier Mark McGowan visited Cleo at her family home on Thursday.
“Cleo was a delightful little girl who was playing in the backyard,” he told reporters afterwards. “She was, I felt very well adjusted, considering.”